One of my favourite things about being a parent is sharing things from my own childhood with Little H, whether it’s toys, photos or visits to places we used to go as kids. So when we were invited to visit Compton Acres gardens in Poole I thought it’d be a great chance to show Little H somewhere I used to like exploring when I was little.
I think the last time I went I was about the same age as H, so it would have been over 30 years ago! I can picture the photos of me and my brother with our parents and also nan and grandad.
Compton Acres is an ornamental garden constructed in 1920 and laid over 10 acres. It’s located in Poole, just a short drive from Sandbanks beach.
The gardens are laid out on a circular route so you can wander around each one in turn, taking different pathways but will still end up passing through each section. There’s an Italian garden, Roman garden and Japanese garden, as well as a children’s play area, sculpture garden, cafe and gift shop.
We went on a wet and grey Saturday and had the whole place to ourselves, we only saw 2 other people and a dog the whole time. Compton Acres is doing a Mary Poppins trail for half-term so Little H set off with her quiz sheet in hand to find the clues.
First stop is the Italian garden which is beautiful with fountains, sculptures, ornamental pool and the Italian villa in the background. The Italian villa at Compton Acres is used for weddings and this garden would be an amazing setting for wedding photos in the summer.
At certain points, you’ll come to different signposts and can choose which route to take. You can’t go wrong though and will come back in a loop so you can take the other pathway and not miss out on anything. We followed the path through palm court and then headed for the Wooded Valley. We came across various animal sculptures in the bushes and ended up in the children’s play area complete with totem pole and teepee.
The play area is a great spot to stop and let the kids play and climb, just don’t forget their wellies! We didn’t stop here for long as it was very wet but it’s a great little park for kids to explore. It will also be lovely in spring when the bluebells start to come through.
We carried on down the pathway to the bog garden which was a little bit too wet to play in but I wonder if in summer it would be suitable for kids to squelch in the mud?
The rock and water gardens have a great rock tunnel, bridges and a pond with ducks and koi carp. There’s a great view from here and in drier weather it would be a lovely place to sit. The fountains and waterfalls weren’t turned on, I guess this is also just something for when the weather gets a bit nicer.
Next on the route is the sculpture garden, Little H loved looking at all the sculptures and skipping down the path.
The path leads to the Harbour View cafe which was closed for the winter but has a lovely view over Poole Harbour and will be a great spot for ice cream in the summer. We also found lots more clues on the Mary Poppins trail.
The Heather garden had lots of little pathways and steps to follow and Little H liked the statues in the middle which she thought looked like Mary Poppins.
The last garden is the Japanese garden which is the one I remember the most from visiting as a child. There are some great Japanese sculptures, plants and bridges.
The main part is a beautiful red wooden Tea House in the middle of the lake that Little H was desperate to explore but unfortunately it’s just to look at.
The best bit is the stepping stones across the lake where you can stop and spot giant koi carp. I remember loving this part when I was little!
There are routes without steps the whole way around so it is suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs, and you can bypass the stepping stones if you don’t want to risk little ones falling in!
It only took us just over an hour to walk around but we did think it was going to rain at any minute so on a warmer day you would probably spend a bit longer, especially when the cafe is open and you can stop half way around.
There is a lovely gift shop and at the end, as well as a plant centre if the gardens have inspired you to make some improvements to your own garden! Compton Acres tea rooms are a must visit for afternoon tea and you can come into this part without visiting the rest of the gardens.
Compton Acres is a lovely place to explore and kids will enjoy following the paths and steps, they can’t get lost so you don’t need to worry about them running off too far. I’d like to visit again in the summer as I imagine the gardens look fantastic when they’re full of colour.
Ticket prices are £19.50 for a family (2 adults and up to 3 children) and there is plenty of free parking on site. Compton Acres gardens are open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day), and opening times are from 10am-4pm from November 1st – Good Friday and 10am-6pm from Good Friday – 31st October.
Have you ever visited Compton Acres before? If you’re coming to Poole and make a visit let me know!